Robots that will equip the future U.S. Army will progress through an academic type of development that ultimately will have them graduate with full autonomy as equal partners with soldiers on the battlefield, if the Army Research Laboratory has its way. This learning regimen will allow them to grow into their roles as they mature from teleoperated machines to guided apprentices on their way to fully skilled battlefield operators that are teammates with warfighters.
YouTube videos of robots running and jumping can be pretty persuasive as to what autonomous technologies can do. However, there is a large gap between robots’ locomotion and their ability to handle and move objects in their environment. Programs at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are examining how to close this capability gap and improve the functionality of robots and other autonomous systems.
Autonomous capabilities have advanced, especially in the last 10 years, but robots still have a hard time performing ad hoc motions, particularly manipulative movements using a robotic arm or hand, says Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) roboticist Glen Henshaw.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is moving into the first development phase of its OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program, a capability that will empower dismounted troops to control scores of unmanned air and ground vehicles simultaneously. Once fully evolved, the technology will provide small-unit infantry forces with small, unmanned aircraft and ground systems to support diverse missions in urban areas. The program also seeks to integrate modern swarm tactics and leverage emerging technologies in swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming.
This isn’t their first rodeo.
Ten teams from around New Mexico will compete in 10 events testing robots’ speed and security in simulated yet realistic scenarios, according to a laboratory news release. While the top three teams will receive trophies, participants mainly are vying for bragging rights, says Jake Deuel, Sandia’s robotics manager and rodeo coordinator.
They can extinguish shipboard fires and deliver explosive devices to kill suspected shooters, and now robots can help U.S. airmen practice for intense missions, such as hostage situations.
The U.S. Air Force’s 27th Special Operations Wing is using specialized robots programmed with practice scenarios to train explosive ordnance disposal technicians at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico.
Today’s ruggedized robots will go where man has gone before—and where man should no longer have to go. While U.S. defense officials are not ready to fully relinquish warfighting duties to robots, they are on the fast track to acquiring technologies and platforms anticipated to shake up military operations.
Giddy up! Military and civilian bomb squad operators are taking to a capabilities exercise robot rodeo to showcase proficiencies and uses of robotics in the field. For the first time in nearly a decade, organizers included unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the competition.
QinetiQ North America, Waltham, Massachusetts, is being awarded a $7,074,242 modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (N00174-13-D-0007) to exercise option year two for post-production support under the Man Transportable Robotic System (MTRS) MK2 program. The MTRS MK2 provides the military explosive ordnance disposal technicians with a man-transportable capability to remotely perform reconnaissance. Work will be performed in Waltham, Massachusetts, and is expected to be completed by February 2016. Contract funds will not be obligated at time of award, and no funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Surface War
The BionicKangaroo mimics the unique way a kangaroo moves. Like its natural model, it can recover the energy when jumping, store it and efficiently use it for the next jump. The kangaroobot intelligently combines pneumatic and electrical drive technology to produce a highly dynamic system. The stable jump kinematics plus the precise control technology ensure stability when jumping and landing. The system is controlled by gestures. Festo paid particular attention to the mobile energy supply on the artificial kangaroo, even developing two different concepts—one with an integrated compressor and one with a mobile high-pressure storage device.
The Titus unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) is smaller, lighter, faster and smarter than its predecessors in the Andros family of systems. Titus weighs 135 pounds and measures 27 inches long, 16 inches wide and 23 inches high. It retains the four-articulator design common to Andros vehicles and also features a unique operator control unit with a hybrid touch-screen and game system-style physical controls.
A group of architects at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia have created a solar-powered, eco-friendly, robotic, 3D printer capable of building bridges and other structures from soil and a liquid binder. Known as the Stone Spray Project, the endeavor pushes the boundaries of digitial manufacturing and on-site fabrication machines.
QinetiQ, Reston, Virginia, recently today announced that the Dragon Runner 20 (DR20) robot has been selected by the Australian Department of Defence to support military robotic missions. DR20 provides situational awareness and critical information and also can disrupt threats and deploy countermeasures.
Qualis Corporation, Huntsville, Alabama, was awarded a $12 million contract modification to increase the total dollar ceiling for technical support services to the program executive office for the Ground Combat Systems Robotics Systems Joint Project Office. The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Warren, Michigan, is the contracting activity.
Foster-Miller Incorporated, Waltham, Massachusetts, is being awarded a $71 million contract modification for the procurement of Man Transportable Robotic System (MTRS) production systems, depot-level repair parts, spare kits, depot repair services, parts supply, training, engineering enhancements, configuration management and approved accessories. The MTRS is a small robotic vehicle used by explosive ordnance disposal technicians to conduct remote reconnaissance, render safe, and/or dispose of explosive devices. The U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Division, Indian Head, Maryland, is the contracting activity.
iRobot Corp., Bedford, Massachusetts, is being awarded a $20 million firm-fixed-price contract for the procurement of Man Transportable Robotic System production systems, depot level repair parts, spare kits, and depot repair services. Explosive ordnance disposal technicians use the small robotic vehicle to conduct remote reconnaissance, render safe and/or dispose of explosive devices. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Division, Indian Head, Maryland, is the contracting activity.
Lockheed Martin has received a $1.1 million contract from the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Center for test and evaluation of its next-generation HULC, an advanced robotic exoskeleton, designed to augment soldiers' strength and endurance, as well as reduce load carriage injuries. Under this contract, the Army will test Lockheed's advanced ruggedized HULC design, which includes optimized control software, extended battery life and human factors improvements for quicker and easier sizing to each user.